I haven’t been to Summernats for a very long time.
I attended the annual celebration of fuel, fumes and flaming rubber when I was younger and wilder – because Summernats then was a place for the young and wild. And I have to say, what I saw fulfilled every cliché of the darker side of Australia’s most notorious motoring event.
From alcohol-fuelled violence to disturbing mob behaviour towards women, and just plain old stupidity – sadly, my observations were far from unique.
Summernats is easily the most controversial inclusion in Canberra’s annual calendar of events. Many locals – especially residents of the inner north – say it’s loud, dirty, disruptive and dangerous. Riot ACT contributors have echoed their concerns in the past.
No doubt organisers would agree that past coverage of the more salacious elements of the event have overshadowed its real purpose, character and strengths.
What is tough to argue, is how much Summernats contributes to our town in terms of tourism, profile and economic benefit. Attendance estimates sit at over 100,000 people, with an anticipated economic benefit around the $20M mark.
And the current organising team behind Summernats is working very hard to improve its culture and image. Chic Henry and his team deserve all due credit for establishing and growing the celebration from its grassroots. The natural evolution now is to continue to evolve it into a more professional and controlled event.
(that said, I have to question the wisdom of tweets like this – scoring points off the locals in the town you’ve called home for 30 years doesn’t seem like a winning promotional strategy … )
We’re throwing the biggest horsepower party cardigan-wearing Canberra has ever seen! https://t.co/2xfF0iIJ2q
— Summernats (@Summernats) January 3, 2017
Anyway, whether you love it or just tolerate it, as Summernats celebrates its 30th year, it’s here to stay. And as a motoring writer based in Canberra, I can’t really afford to miss it.
So for the first time in many years, I’ll be heading along to Summernats this weekend.
Media access is restricted to the daylight hours, which is probably a good thing. Undoubtedly – like anywhere else – any seediness emerges after dark, so it will be interesting to attend during the day, when I expect the landscape to be dominated by families and true enthusiasts.
Some areas are strictly off limits to reporters as well – but writing about burn outs isn’t really my bag anyway.
I do expect to meet a lot of people with extraordinary and unique cars, who are really passionate about what they do and keen to share their stories. This is the heart of the Summer Nationals, and the part that I’m really excited about.
The Riot ACT will be covering the opening City Cruise on Thursday 5 January from about midday. This street element is conducted with the full support and cooperation of the ACT Government, and will see more than 300 hot rods, street machines and highly modified vehicles cruise Northbourne Avenue from EPIC down to the city and back. If you want to see if for yourself, bring your lunch and get there early to grab a good spot.
Other than that, I’m looking forward to checking out the driver skills events, the Shannons Show ‘N’ Shine, airbrush art exhibitions and, of course, the competition judging.
I’ll be there. Must remember to wear my cardigan.
Will I see you at Summernats this weekend? Have you been in the past few years, and if so, have you noticed a change?